Candidate Steve Wells prepares to be interviewed by a local news reporter on election night. Photo by Jason Emerson.
By Jason Emerson
Cazenovian Steve Wells went into primary election night in an apparent statistical tie with Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney for the GOP congressional nomination, but in the end it was Tenney who won the nod by more than 1,500 votes to become the party’s general election candidate in November.
Wells, a businessman and former prosecutor who lives in Cazenovia, ran an outsider campaign focused on being a non-politician who was fed-up with how beltway insiders run the government. He ran against Tenney, a three-term member of the state Assembly, and George Phillips, an educator, to succeed retiring Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barnveld). Hanna endorsed Wells for his seat the week before the election.
According to the New York State Board of Elections, the final vote tally was 8,869 votes (41.29 percent) for Tenney; 7,195 votes (33.50 percent) for Wells; and 5,308 votes (24.71 percent) for Phillips.
“We had a heck of a journey for six months … For our family it’s been a wonderful lesson in Democracy,” Wells, standing with his wife Pamela and son Jack, said to his supports in the Lincklaen House in Cazenovia after conceding the race to Tenney. “You all have done more than anything that was asked of you … We did everything right … They’re formidable competitors, and this is what democracy is all about.”
Acknowledging her victory Tuesday night, Tenney thanked her supporters and staff and laid out her philosophy for governing.
“Like I have always done in Albany, I will tell the truth, fight for regular people and provide independent, conservative leadership in this campaign and in Congress,” Tenney said. “We need leaders in Washington who will advocate for policies to revitalize manufacturing, protect family farms and stand up to leaders in both parties. For families and small business owners, it’s not Republican versus Democrat, its elites in both parties in Washington against the rest of us.”
For Wells, the election was an excellent lesson for his sons — Jack, 12, and Sam, 11 — in democracy, public service and, ultimately, how to handle defeat with character.
“I never expected to run for office,” Wells said after he voted Tuesday morning at St. James Church on Green Street in Cazenovia. “You can’t just complain; you’ve got to get up and do something.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.